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Jacques Panigel: octobre a Paris

June 16, 2014 8:00 pm

1962, 70 minutes, French

Filmed clandestinely, and censored for over 50 years, Panijel’s documentary recounts the events of October 17, 1961, in which nearly 30,000 Algerians peacefully demonstrated in the streets of Paris to the call of the fln.

Fifty years ago, the Paris chief of police, Maurice Papon (who would be in 1988 convinced of complicity for war crimes during WWII), with the consent of the then French government, imposed a discriminatory curfew, intended solely for French Algerian Muslims. To protest against this racist curfew, the French federation of the fln called for a peaceful reaction that took the form of an enormous demonstration in the streets of Paris. On the evening of Tuesday, October 17th, nearly thirty thousand Algerians—men, women, and children—thus demonstrated peacefully on the major boulevards of the capital, as a reminder of their equality and for the independence of their country. A fierce repression followed that for years was hushed up. There were eleven thousand arrests, dozens of murders, including many demonstrators thrown into the seine after having been beaten up; hundreds of expulsions and complaints went unheard. Just after October 17th, the audin committee understood the importance of testifying to these police crimes committed in the heart of Paris. One of the leaders of this committee, the historian Pierre Vidal-Naquet agreed to Jacques Panijel’s idea to make a film that would become octobre à Paris. The film was financed by the money of the audin committee, which was itself secretly helped by the French federation of the fln. The shoot began at the end of October 1961 and lasted until February 1962; the final film includes images from the tragedy at the charonne subway station where eight French democrats were killed by the police, still under the command of the police chief papon. Octobre à Paris was immediately banned and Jacques Panijel again harassed (in September 1960, he had already been indicted for having signed his name to the “manifeste de 121” that supported insubordination and the fight of the Algerian people for its independence). the state persecutions against the film and its director continued even after the end of the Algerian war. the exhibitors who sought to screen it privately or in semi-public screenings systematically had their theatres shut down by the police who also did their best to confiscate the film. it was only in 1973, after the hunger strike of the filmmaker and former resistance fighter René Vautier, that octobre à Paris finally obtained its screening visa.

Excerpt from a text published by Gérard Vaugeois and les films de l’atalante (distributor).